7 Tips to Convert Givers Into Raving Fans
Written By: Jon Bennett
Senior Generosity Consultant
While driving towards north Atlanta, my cell phone rang. I was just weeks into starting my new role as lead pastor at a local church. It was both thrilling and terrifying at the same time! We were in the process of deciding the initial launch site and had already considered several sites.
The voice on the other end was an individual I had not yet met, but heard about through the proverbial “grapevine” that he was very capable of supporting our new church financially. He quickly started describing the property he owned and how he thought it might be a great place for a church one day.
Of course, I’m thinking the entire time, “Do you realize that I am a church planter and have no money to buy property?” And then he casually mentioned, which was like music to my ears, ”I was thinking of donating it to you!”
I responded, “It sounded like you said, ddd-donate!”
Over the course of several weeks, this extremely generous man gifted a nearly 2-million-dollar piece of property to our new church plant! Though the gift was extraordinary, it meant so much more in terms of the confidence it built in our launch team. Far beyond the dollar amount, God confirmed His call to plant a new church.
My wife, Beth, and I have spent the past 30 years in full-time ministry. For most of these years it has been up to us to raise the money required to carry out this work. By God’s grace, and despite our reluctance and committing every “fundraising sin” in the book, we have been able to raise millions of dollars to advance Kingdom projects, construct buildings, and help establish churches.
Regardless of the amount raised, we have observed this one constant throughout our fundraising journey: The relationship and “heart” behind any gift always trump the dollar value.
It is this truth that I hope you will embrace as you consider asking for your next gift.
Here are seven tips to help you convert givers into raving fans – while keeping the relationship at the center.
#1 – Care more about the person than the gift.
People who have a lot of money are used to being hit up for all sorts of needs and causes. They are used to being treated like an ATM.
So, don’t do it! Don’t build relationships with people just to put yourself in a position to get something, even if it is for a good cause. Treat people the way you want to be treated, and that means caring about the person as a human being not just a potential donor.
#2 – Invest in the relationship before you ask.
By the time you ask someone to make a significant contribution, they should already understand what you do and why it matters. They should already be interested in your ministry and should already be involved at some level. The big contribution should not be their first contribution.
If the first thing you ask for is a significant contribution, you’ve missed the boat.
#3 – Understand it’s a process not a presentation.
You can probably tell by now, there is a relational theme here, but asking for a significant contribution is more of a process than a presentation. Bringing someone along and helping them develop an affinity with your cause is absolutely key to asking for anything.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: Make seven personal touches for every ask. Remember, cultivation is more important than solicitation.
#4 – Do your homework.
When you sit down for coffee with a potential donor, you should be ready for the conversation. Sure, this means you know your ministry and the opportunity inside and out, but you also need to do your homework on the person:
What do they really care about? What causes do they already support? Where do they volunteer? What type of reporting matters to them? Where are they already involved?
Prepare for the meeting – not just by knowing your needs but by knowing the other person. A lot of this information should come out naturally as you’ve built a relationship, but do your homework.
#5 – Talk about benefits not just needs.
Most ministries and nonprofits get this backwards, and that’s understandable. Of course, you’re excited about the ministry. Of course, you’re excited about the opportunity. You are highly committed to your cause and you believe in what you’re doing.
When you go into these meetings, it’s easy to lead with the opportunity and talk all about the ministry. But this is a mistake.
The giver needs to be the hero of the conversation, not your organization. Talk about what can happen in the life of the giver, not simply what you’re going to do with the money. Make it about benefits to the person and let them see how their gifts are making real life change possible!
Why should this person give? What’s in it for them? If you can’t answer those questions, you’re not ready to have the conversation.
#6 – Don’t be afraid to ask.
The biggest obstacle to fundraising isn’t the economy or the abundance of opportunity. It’s often the fear.
There will come a time in the life of every ministry leader when you have to make a bold ask. In these moments, it’s time to go for it. Don’t let fear cripple you. Don’t let the fear of rejection keep you from having the conversation.
It may feel awkward, but do it anyway. Very few people will give without being asked, so own it.
#7 – Be ready to follow up and follow through.
If you hear a “yes,” great! It’s time to follow up. Make sure you say thanks, provide instructions, and keep building the relationship.
But “no” also means it is time to follow up. Say thanks. Keep sharing stories. Keep building the relationship. Sometimes a “no” is a “slow yes.” Remember, it is about the person not the donation.
Follow up work is some of the most important work in fundraising, so don’t skip this step.